BEIJING (AP) — An open pit mine collapsed in China’s northern Inner Mongolia region on Wednesday, killing at least two people and leaving more than 50 missing, state media reported.
The official Xinhua News Agency said people were buried under debris at the mine in Alxa League. It said six were rescued with injuries and 53 were still listed as missing.
A brief video of the collapse posted on the website of the Beijing Times newspaper showed a massive wall of reddish dirt or sand rushing down a slope onto mining vehicles moving below.
Chinese President Xi Jinping demanded “all-out efforts in search and rescue of the missing and treatment of the injured,” Xinhua reported. Xi called for “ensuring the safety of people’s lives and property and maintaining overall social stability,” it said.
More than 300 rescue workers operating 129 rescue vehicles were participating in the search, Xinhua said.
The company running the mine, Inner Mongolia Xinjing Coal Industry Co. Ltd., was cited and fined last year for multiple safety violations ranging from insecure access routes to the mining surface to unsafe storage of volatile materials and a lack of training for its safety overseers, according to the news website The Paper.
Inner Mongolia is a key region for mining of coal and various minerals and rare earths, which critics say has ravaged the original landscape of mountains, grassy steppes and deserts.
China overwhelmingly relies on coal for power generation but has tried to reduce the number of deadly mine accidents through a greater emphasis on safety and the closure of smaller operations that lacked necessary equipment.
Most mining deaths are attributed to explosions caused by the buildup of methane and coal dust, or to drownings caused when miners break into shafts that had been abandoned due to flooding.
China has recorded a slew of deadly industrial and construction accidents in recent months as a result of poor safety training and regulation, official corruption and a tendency to cut corners by companies seeking to make profits. The economy has slowed, partly as a result of draconian lockdowns and quarantines imposed under the now-abandoned “zero COVID” policy.
In one of the worst recent incidents, 38 people were killed in a fire at a company dealing with chemicals and other industrial goods in the central province of Henan that was blamed on unsafe welding work.
Last month, an avalanche buried vehicles outside a highway tunnel in Tibet, killing at least 28. Many of those trapped were headed home for the Lunar New Year holiday.